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Millcreek Journal

Millcreek student wins Gallaudet University’s National Literacy Contest

Mar 29, 2022 09:56PM ● By Lizzie Walie

Sarah Gubler, a student at the Jean Massieu School of the Deaf in Salt Lake City, delivered her award-winning poem using American Sign Language. (Photo courtesy Jean Massieu School of the Deaf)

By Lizzie Walje | [email protected]

Sarah Gubler, an 11th-grade student at the Jean Massieu School of the Deaf in Salt Lake City recently won first place in Gallaudet University’s National Literacy Competition. Gubler, who competed against other middle and high school-aged students, actually ranked in two different categories—American Sign Language (ASL) Poetry and ASL Handshapes. Gubler walked away with $200 and well-earned acclaim for her poetry contribution.

Gallaudet University, the institution that hosts the competition, is a private federally chartered university in Washington, D.C., that provides higher education tailored specifically for those who are deaf and/or hard of hearing. Their National Literacy Competition is an annual writing event that is open to all deaf and/or hard of hearing students grades two through 12 nationwide.

According to the parameters of the competition “to participate, students must create original written or [American Sign Language] submissions in accordance with the year’s theme. The purpose of the competition is to give deaf and hard of hearing students the opportunity to showcase their abilities, as well as instill pride and ownership in their work.”

Gubler placed first in the Deaf Plus ASL Poetry Division with a poem of hers that was performed using American Sign Language. The poem follows the story of a fire-breathing dragon as it destroys a village, dives for fish, and finally returns to its lair for the night.

When asked about her inspiration and creative process regarding the poem and its origins, Sarah, who communicates using American Sign Language, said, “Yeah, I just created the poem myself. I made up this story. I wrote a story about a dragon from a long time ago, so I took on the role of the dragon in my poetry and came up with the vocab myself and signed the story.”

Sarah also credits a teacher of hers, Yvonne Montalette, for helping her develop the foundation of her poem. “I first got the idea [of the dragon] from my teacher. She helped me come up with the poetry and she supported me through that. Then [we started adding details] and I signed the poetry myself. It took a lot of practice to remember everything and sign everything correctly,” she said.

Gubler was excited when she found out she had won the contest. However, she thoroughly enjoyed the entire process from brainstorming to bringing her work to life. “It was so fun for me to, you know, create this poem. And to try something new. And to win first place. It was all so just exciting for me,” she said. “It made me so happy.”

Gubler, who is both deaf and blind, has a condition called coloboma of the retina. Essentially, her vision is compromised by a series of large blind spots. While this diagnosis might be a roadblock to some, Gubler has found ways to use it to her advantage. Her channeling of emotions and dialogue through American Sign Language is an art in itself, and something she excels at. Incidentally, Gubler has won the National Literacy Competition before, taking home first place honors in eighth, ninth, 10th and now 11th grade.

Many of Gubler’s peers and educators expressed congratulations with Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind Superintendent Joel Coleman saying, “We are very proud of Sarah Gubler. She is a great example of a student who is able to learn and thrive with personalized, student-centered education. We coach our students to always remember if they can’t see, hear, or both, there is still so much they can do to become capable adults who can contribute to society.”